A powerful Middle Eastern axis of Sunni states has taken form in the region, which “does not view Israel as a sworn enemy” and has successfully kept extremist jihadi terrorism at bay, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad said on Sunday.
Speaking before the Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s international summit in Herzliya, Gilad, who is director of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at the Defense Ministry, said that Israel “won’t ever be accepted as a formal member” of the Sunni axis, but that the states that make it up all view the US as the sole superpower and that their regional policies are indirectly beneficial for Israel.
“This has a huge importance... and gives us many opportunities,” Gilad said.
Gilad described Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as a new leader who “history will remember,” noting that he is combating the Muslim Brotherhood, a “movement that envelops the region.” The Brotherhood has not swerved from its ideological commitment to Israel’s destruction and to toppling all of the region’s regimes, he said.
“When [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh set a meeting with [Mohamed] Morsi, he was symbolically received immediately,” Gilad said. “Hamas is officially part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their self confidence was huge when Morsi was in power.” Now, he said, Hamas has been left without a single ally in the region.
Had the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in its plot for regional domination, a ring of hostility would have been formed around Israel, Gilad noted. From the perspective of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, there are two threats to his country: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
This was reflected in the billions of dollars donated to Egypt by Saudi Arabia and the UAE after Sisi took power, Gilad argued.
“Sisi didn’t act against them [the Muslim Brotherhood] on behalf of the West or Israel, but only for the good of Egypt. He simply saw that Egypt was falling into the abyss, in terms of repression and the economy...
He wishes to save Egypt,” Gilad said.
Jordan, for its part, excels at counter- terrorism due its own interest in combatting radical Islamist interests.
As a result, there are no terrorist attacks in Jordan or attacks from Jordan on Israel, Gilad said. “Their existence as an independent kingdom is impressive,” he added.
“All of the kingdoms, from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, are surviving [the period of Middle Eastern turmoil].
Not one faces an existential danger,” he said.
“This axis is very heavyweight. I recommend viewing Egypt as the leader of the Arab world, and I disagree with those who don’t see it this way. There is a mass of 87 million Egyptians who are one nation with a 5,000-year history,” Gilad said.
“I’m identifying a serious fight against terrorism in Sinai. It’s an impressive fight against Al-Qaida organizations,” he continued.
Gilad said that despite many threats, Syria has refrained from sponsoring terrorist attacks against Israel due to Israeli deterrence.
“The reasons [this isn’t happening] are clear,” he said.
Hezbollah, too, is deterred by Israel, and there has even been a decrease in its attempts to carry out low-signature attacks abroad, though the threat has not vanished, Gilad added.
Israeli deterrence would be harmed should Iran become a nuclear state or obtain the image of a nuclear-armed state, he warned.
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